How well you close is perhaps the ultimate judge of your sales success. But how you open has a lot to do with whether or not you get to close at all!

I’m not the first to say it, but it’s still true: You never get a second chance to make a first impression.

What you may not realize is that before you even open your mouth, you’ve already said a lot. Your appearance speaks volumes about you. As a salesperson, you should dress according to the client and the climate of the meeting without sacrificing your own professionalism.

When the customer opens the door, smile and introduce yourself. Greet everyone and shake their hands. Once in the door, don’t jump straight into your presentation. Take a moment to make small talk and make the most of those first minutes. This will help you get inside your prospect’s comfort zone.

Make neutral, personal and sincere comments throughout the process. Be observant. (If you see a bowling trophy on the bookshelf, use it as a conversation starter!) Be yourself and be natural. Have a confident manner that is neither superior nor inferior to your prospect.

Open with a Bang

After making a good first impression, follow it up with a great opening. A prospect’s reaction to you in the early minutes of the presentation is critical to a successful sale.

To begin the presentation, you first have to get your prospect’s attention, so open with a bang, just like a headline. Start with a strong, effective statement that you build on throughout your presentation and support it along the way.

There are many different ways to open, and which one you should use depends on your audience (illustrating the importance of knowing your prospects well).

You might choose to open your presentation by saying something like, “One of the great things about doing business with…” to imply that there are many great things, and to gain and hold a customer’s interest.

Other attention-grabbing opening options include:

• Startling statistics – “I was just reading that if your system is over 8 years old, a new system generally saves more in repairs and energy than the new one costs! You don’t often find a machine that buys itself…”
• A rhetorical or open-ended question - “Did you know that 55% of your energy bill goes toward keeping your home cool (or warm)? That’s why it just makes good sense…”
• An analogy. “Usually, repairing a system that age is kind of like putting a $100 saddle on a $10 horse.”
• An anecdote. “I was just around the corner from you last week, with an almost identical situation. Must be catching! Turns out that we were able to solve their problems pretty easily by…”

Make sure your opening strategy applies to the subject at hand and in some way involves the prospect.

One word of advice, if you choose to open with a joke, be very careful. Nine times out of ten, the joke is either not funny, or even if it is, your audience has already heard it several times. Humor is a good tool in effective speaking, but it must be used properly.

Presenting is serious business, but it should also be entertaining. A good opener will get your presentation off to a great start. And another thing that’s just as true: a great start gets you one step closer to a great close.

Adams Hudson is president of Hudson, Ink, a creative marketing firm for contractors. For more information about the HVAC Sales Power Pack or to get a free copy of a 16-page booklet, “How to Double Your HVAC Sales in 90 Days” call 1 800 489-9099 or fax the request on your letterhead to 334-262-1115. You may also request it from moresales@hudsonink.com. See www.hudsonink.com for many great, free marketing and sales reports.